Tuesday, 18 June 2013

There was an accident

last week. It occurred on a street I use on my way home from the local library. As I turned into the street I could see a fire engine blocking the street, an ambulance with lights flashing and police cars at the far end of the street. 
I could also see the usual crowd gathering. A second ambulance turned into the street behind me. This one did not have lights flashing or the siren on.  I waited until it had passed me and then turned around. I made my way home by a different route.
Later someone asked me what had happened there. I said I did not know.
         "But, didn't you go and look?"
No, I did not go and look. I saw no reason to go and look. I had no desire to look. It is not the sort of thing I want to look at. 
My reaction has always been the same with accidents. If other people are handling the situation and I can do nothing to help then I move on. It is not my business and I believe I should get out of the way and stay out of the way.
Clearly other people feel differently.
It made me wonder about something else though. Recently, there have been several very nasty racist incidents on public transport.  Some of them have been reported in the media - even filmed on mobile devices and put up for all to see. People have not intervened. They have simply let it happen.
Then there was what appears to have been a very public instanced of domestic violence between Nigella Lawson and her husband in a very exclusive London restaurant.  Nobody intervened there either.
I imagine the patrons thought it was a job for the staff and the staff were not willing to risk their jobs - and everyone thought it was none of their business.
Now I happen to think that the accident really is none of my business. Other people were dealing with it. I have helped other people when my help was needed. It was my business then. 
It would be my business on public transport. Racists are cowards and need to be condemned. I hope I would have the courage to speak up if a racist incident occurred when I was travelling. I would be betraying my friends who come from other cultures and backgrounds if I did not make it clear that the behaviour was unacceptable.
And the domestic violence? I can remember years ago being in a supermarket when a man, who clearly should have been on a diet, threw several packets of chocolate covered biscuits in a trolley and shouted at his wife that he was going to have them whether she liked it or not. I can remember staring at him. He shouted at me as well, what was I doing staring at him like that?
I looked back and said,
      "I think you are behaving like a two year old."
He stormed off down the aisle. I am not sure it did any good. Although his wife did thank me for saying it someone else told me I should not have got involved. 
And I think that might be the problem. It seems, in the eyes of many, to be acceptable to stand and gawk but it is not acceptable to get involved. It is seen as "interfering in other people's business" but discrimination, racism, sexism and domestic violence are everyone's business - are they not? 


Jan said...

There was a very nasty accident late at night here a couple of weeks ago. About a minute's walk from my place A milk tanker ran off road into a corner shop around midnight and the driver was killed. The road, one of Sydney's busiest and the main road west, was blocked for eight hours. I happened to glance up as I ate my breakfast just as the tanker which had then been pulled out was carried on a low loader past my place. I wish I hadn't looked just then. There was little left of the cabin. The shop is now shored up with struts and beams and has been boarded up. I shudder as I go past it. I was asked if I had gone to look at the scene. No, I could not bear the thought of it.

Your other scenario is more troublesome. I really don't know what I would have done, although I did once say something in a supermarket much along the lines of your experience. However, while it involved a two year old, this really was a child. The mother had her hand around the back of his head and she picked up the child and shook him severely by the head as her fingers rested on bones behind his ear. A very dangerous thing to do. Checkout woman and I spoke simultaneously and we were not welcomed by the mother, but she did stop.

Philip C James said...

Charles Saatchi has "accepted a caution for assault" so good was done by a 'gawker' (in this case a papparazzo) even if it was for the wrong reasons. Terrible for Nigella for her personal life to be made public (but isn't that true of all victims of domestic abuse who feel they must excuse their abusers' actions?) but maybe it's the catalyst both for her to resolve the issue (leave him) and the publicity for others less famous not to accept abuse.

As for the infantilisation of society, that's another whole kettle of large tuna to debate...